Warring Libya factions eye prisoner launch as talks proceed | Center East

According to the UN mission, the talks in Egypt dealt with confidence-building measures, security precautions and the role of the Petroleum Facilities Guard.

The warring sides in Libya have agreed to resume military talks next week after the meeting in Egypt, the United Nations mission said, hoping the move would pave the way to a permanent ceasefire.

The United Nations-recognized government of the National Agreement (GNA) rejected a 14-month attack on the capital Tripoli by the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) under the leadership of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar in June. The two are now buried along a front line near the strategic city of Sirte.

The UN mission said the Egypt talks looked at confidence-building measures, security precautions and the role of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which is supposed to protect energy infrastructure but is often composed of local groups with their own agendas.

Recommendations would be made to military delegations – including the exchange and release of prisoners and speeding up the reopening of air and land transport links.

The United Nations-led process ran parallel to other leads represented by factions both within the GNA and LNA, as well as between the external powers involved in the conflict.

Turkey supports the GNA while the LNA is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.

The United Nations has accused foreign countries, including those who officially supported its ceasefire, of breaking an arms embargo to supply the sides with weapons and fighters.

“Counter Terrorism”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper arrived in neighboring Tunisia on Wednesday, his first stop on a North Africa tour to reaffirm US engagement in the Maghreb region.

Esper was scheduled to meet President Kais Saied and Defense Secretary Ibrahim Bartagi before delivering a speech at the North African American Cemetery in Carthage, where more than 2,800 U.S. soldiers were buried, most of whom were killed in World War II.

As the raging conflict in Libya has attracted foreign fighters and world powers to support rival sides, Washington has increasingly collaborated with the Tunisian military, particularly in counter-terrorism operations.

Washington classified Tunisia as a key ally outside of NATO in 2015, which enabled increased military cooperation.

According to the African Africa Command Africom, the company has invested more than USD 1 billion in the Tunisian military since 2011.

Esper will visit neighboring Algeria on Thursday, making him the first Secretary of Defense since Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.

Esper will then travel to Morocco, the US’s other major ally outside of NATO in the Maghreb region.

During his visit to Tunisia, the defense chief is set to warn of growing Russian and Chinese influence on the continent, according to a US official speaking ahead of the trip.

The other aim of the visit was to strengthen ties and discuss the threat posed by ISIL (ISIS) fighters, the official said.

In May last year, the head of Africom said the United States would send more troops into the country amid the deteriorating situation in Libya, which would cause an outcry in Tunisia.

Africom later made it clear that only “a small training session” would be used that would not conduct combat operations, and the Tunisian government said there were no plans for a US base in the country.

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